What is core endurance and why is it good for low back pain?

May 15, 2023

What is core endurance?

Core endurance is the ability to maintain a position or perform multiple repetitions. It’s when we’re lacking this core endurance element, that we can find lower back pain creeping in if we’re performing exercises repeatedly or over a period of time.

Why not core strength?

Core strength gets talked about a lot in these conversations. People often say, ‘I need to improve my core strength,’ ‘I need to run to improve my core strength,’ etc. The thing is, I know plenty of people who can lift heavy weights but still have bad backs, and plenty of people who can’t, and yet don’t.

The fact is, back muscle strength has not been found to be a significant predictor of first time injuries. Put simply, the issue isn’t strength.

The strength aspect is literally the ability to contract the muscles and get into the position to lift the weight and to perform the exercise. The endurance part is the ability to maintain the position and perform lots of repetitions. And this is the key point, and the big difference, when it comes to lower back pain.

Lower back pain is commonly understood to be about the straw that breaks the camel’s back. There's a lot that goes on before it. It’s not about that one thing you did. And that’s where the endurance part comes in rather than strength. Because it helps ensure that your back muscles don’t get tired and they can resist fatigue. Also, that they can help you to maintain a good spine posture for longer and while doing more everyday things. 

People are more likely to get injured when they break form, i.e. when they lift incorrectly, when don’t hinge at the hip, or the core muscles aren’t supporting the weight of the spine.

And it’s more likely that this will happen when that core endurance isn’t there.

What’s happening in the back muscles when we build endurance?

The reason our muscles are able to resist fatigue and maintain that spine posture is because we are able to clear waste product. I talk about this with diagrams in the tutorial above. In summary though, when we breakdown the muscle, there’s the muscle fibre, which is made-up of little maya fibrils and then the cytoplasm, which is the fluid around these muscle fibres. Inside you’ll find mitochondria. It's the mitochondria that are able to not only produce the energy but clear the waste out of the cell as well. It’s a vital function.

When we’re able to do that, our cells, and therefore our muscles, are able to function for longer. Even better, it’s a cyclical process because better functioning muscles clear the waste better too. So we’re clearing the waste product at a faster and faster rate meaning we’re able to maintain and continue improving.

But we all have limits.

Unfortunately, as we start exercising and the waste product increases above a limit, the muscle will start to fail.

You know when you do an exercise and you feel the burn to the point you can't do anymore?

That's because the waste product has reached its limit. That’s when you rest, to allow things to settle down before you go again. But building endurance means your muscles are able to spend more time at those higher limits. You’re able to get more done before you need to rest.

With more endurance we can work harder while keeping muscles healthy for longer, maintaining posture more consistently and resisting fatigue.

What are exercises for core endurance?

Check out the tutorial above for visuals of and discussion of these exercises.

I don’t know your level of lower back pain, your ability to exercise currently, or indeed how much experience you have of exercise in the past.

That’s why I suggest starting at a fundamental level with the basics – the plank, side plank and bird dog. But I also provide extensions and changes for advancement.

You’ll begin to build back muscle endurance as well as the anterior core muscles on the left and right. You may also choose to add in the bridge which will then build gluteal endurance as well as activation.

The first step is to get the muscles active, then we build endurance into them. This really is something that doesn’t need to be complicated. Simple core exercises, done right, will do the job. 

If you are struggling with lower back pain, click the link and take a look at my How to Overcome Lower back Pain consultation and coaching where we can sit together online and come up with a rehab plan that will get you back pain-free and training again, ASAP.

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our free monthly newsletter to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.


50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.